Lawyer calls on Labour to repeal s.144

The Beast of Injustice

Alistair Mitchell, a barrister from Foregate Chambers, recently found himself being courted by Andy Burnham from the Labour Party for their support. Outraged by the injustice of section 144, he has called upon the party to campaign for the repeal of this draconian legislation. Here is his letter:

Dear Andy,

I was appalled that the Labour Party failed to oppose the passing of s.144 LAPSO to criminalise homeless people who squat. Indeed, your Shadow Justice Secretary went out of his way to support the new law with a statement on your website. S.144 was passed with just 90 minutes of debate. Only 13 MP’s voted against this draconian legislation.

Squatters have been arrested in Brighton, denied police bail (after the police, acting effectively as bailiffs, made them homeless) then had the CPS oppose bail on the grounds that they had ‘no fixed abode’ (thanks to the police) and ‘would commit further offences’ (i.e. squat again to keep a roof over their heads).

Now one young man (Alex Haigh) languishes in Wormwood Scrubs for 12 weeks, having pleaded guilty under the new law. He squatted a London and Quadrant Housing Association property which had been empty for a year. He readily admitted being a squatter to the police. But he would probably have got less for ABH!

There are over 720,000 empty properties in this country. This is the real crime whilst council housing waiting lists overflow. The new legislation will enable banks to keep re-possessed properties empty, awaiting an upturn in the housing market, to the detriment of the homeless and first-time buyers.

I know that the Labour Party recently invited John Cooper QC to advise on s.144. Quite frankly, this is well after the horse has bolted.

When the Labour Party decides to call for the repeal of s.144 please do let me know. Until then, you most certainly cannot rely on my support in any shape or form.

Yours sincerely,

Alistair Mitchell